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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD Review: Starting Out in the Evening

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3 replies to this topic

#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

Kevin EK


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Posted April 24 2008 - 06:09 AM


Studio: Lionsgate
Original Release: 2007
Length: 1 hour 51 mins
Genre: Drama

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Color/B&W: Color

  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0

    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Rating: PG-13

  • Release Date: April 22, 2008

    2 ½ ½

    Rating:Starring: Frank Langella, Lili Taylor, Lauren Ambrose and Adrian Lester

    Based on the Novel by Brian Morton
    Written by: Fred Parnes and Andrew Wagner
    Directed by: Andrew Wagner

    Starting Out in the Evening is Andrew Wagner’s adaptation of Brian Morton’s lyrical novel about a writer in his twilight, featuring a fine performance by Frank Langella in the primary role of author Leonard Schiller. The film is a noble effort, but it misses the depth and the poetry of Morton’s book, presenting instead a radically simplified version of the story. Wagner is clearly a fan both of the book and of Frank Langella, but he is unable to do much beyond the surface of what could have been a rich and layered character study. There are many examples of this in the film, where Wagner makes passing references to elements from the book (such as Russell’s Comet) without integrating them into the story in a meaningful way. Similarly, the title of Morton’s novel, Starting Out in the Evening, has significance as being the title of one of Schiller’s unpublished novels – in the film, that title is never mentioned. Relationships throughout the story are simplified in the film to the point that much of their meaning from the novel is simply lost. I should note here that I do not mean to say that this is a bad film – just that there is a much richer story here that could have been told with the material and the cast.


    Starting Out in the Evening is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that does a serviceable job of faithfully presenting a series of characters in various New York locations, mostly somewhat darker interiors. Given the low budget and brief schedule of the production, this is less a transfer of sweeping vistas, and more of an intimate portrait of people in close spaces with each other. As such, the transfer looks fine.


    Starting Out in the Evening is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a Stereo 2.0 mix, both in English. Adding the surround channels allows the music to move to the rear channels, and there is some use of directional effects to allow doors to open and close to the left or right rear of the viewer. But, as you might surmise, this is primarily a film about dialogue that happens in the front channels.


    Starting Out in the Evening contains a commentary by Andrew Wagner and a pair of trailers, but that’s the extent of the supplements on the disc. As with the film itself, there is a lot more depth that could have been examined here. The voices of Frank Langella and particularly author Brian Morton are sorely missed.

  • Director’s Commentary with Andrew Wagner - Andrew Wagner provides a scene-specific commentary that reveals his enthusiasm for the story and his affection for his cast, but provides very little substance. There are many gaps of silence as Wagner watches the movie, followed by reiterations of what the characters are saying and how they are behaving. It would have helped to have an additional person on the commentary – preferably the novel’s author, Brian Morton, to note the various hints of material not only from this work but from his other novels. It could have certainly helped to have included Langella in this as well.

  • Theatrical Trailer - (2:19, Non-anamorphic) – The film’s theatrical trailer is included, in non-anamorphic format.

  • TV Spot - (:32, Non-anamorphic) – A short TV spot for the film is included, in non-anamorphic format.

    Subtitles are available in English and Spanish. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with an optional series of non-anamorphic previews including Away from Her, Trade, Fierce People and Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, as well as an anamorphic trailer for Right at Your Door.

    IN THE END...

    Starting Out in the Evening is a well-intentioned film that presents good work by Frank Langella but misses the depth and complexity of the source novel. The director’s commentary included on the disc similarly stays on the surface. Fans of the book will likely have some reservations, but fans of Frank Langella will certainly enjoy his finely crafted performance here.

    Kevin Koster
    April 24, 2007.

  • [PG]118930502[/PG]

    #2 of 4 OFFLINE   Jon Martin

    Jon Martin


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    Posted April 24 2008 - 10:16 AM

    I think I liked the film more than you, although I haven't read the book since it was first published, and have forgot most of it, so I don't remember what the changes were. As for the transfer, I only saw it on a standard TV, but I thought it was very strong. The film was financed by the Voom HD network, so I don't know if it looks better on a better setup than I had, or in HD.

    #3 of 4 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

    Kevin EK


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    Posted April 24 2008 - 02:23 PM

    I watched the disc on a Sony 40" XBR2, playing on a Playstation 3 with the current software upconverting the image to 1080p.

    It's a fine transfer - but I temper that with the fact that the film was shot for 500K in 18 days. I also believe it to have been shot on HD cameras, but I have been unable to confirm this.

    And I'm truly sorry to not be able to write more upbeat reviews of this film or of Charlie Wilson's War, but I've got to be honest with you and with myself. When I see one that I really like, such as Breach or Breaking and Entering, you tend to see me writing in more glowing terms.

    #4 of 4 OFFLINE   Jon Martin

    Jon Martin


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    Posted April 25 2008 - 02:57 AM

    Don't feel sorry. If we wanted to read raves about everything, we'd read Earl Dittman or Pete Hammond's reviews. The great thing about an HTF review is the focus on audio and video quality, as well as the extras. That way, if someone already loves the film, they can still learn from the review. I mean, I liked STARTING OUT and CHARLIE WILSON quite a bit more than BREACH and BREAKING AND ENTERING, yet I STILL got something from your reviews. Keep up the good work.

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